By Gerry PrewettOn Saturday Bristol Rovers have an early televised fixture when they face promotion rivals Macclesfield Town at Moss Rose. Having lost their last two games the Silkmen realise they are running out of opportunities to make ground.
Last Saturday they succumbed to low lying Nuneaton Borough in a home fixture. With time ticking away, Borough skipper Theo Streete missed a glorious chance to give the visitors all three points, his one-on-one effort with Taylor saw the keeper coming off best.
Moments later, Taylor was left with no chance as a cross-cum-shot from new-man Josh Rees, looked to be heading wide, but substitute Onome Sodje stole in, sliding the ball home to give Nuneaton a well deserved victory.
Despite those two defeats Macc Boss John Askey is calling on his players to see out the season in style, “Apart from the first half against Altrincham we haven’t played well for three or four weeks, so we’ve got to get back to playing football again.”
“Hopefully that will happen this Saturday, I’m hoping the pitch won’t be quite as firm and we can get back to what we've been doing well.
“I don’t want them to panic, there are no excuses for us panicking on the ball, I’d prefer us to go down fighting and trying to do things the right way.”
“We’re just on a bad spell, every team has them,” added Askey, “We’re still in good stead and the players have been great, I’m trying to get the message to them that they’ve just got to believe in themselves again.”
“They’ve got enough ability for it to come good again. It looks like a big gap to make up at the minute but it will look different if we can win on Saturday. We know there will be twists and turns before the end of the season, so if we can put another good run together, like we did at the start of the year, there’s still a chance we could top the league at the end.”
“We need three more wins if you’re looking at the play-offs and I don’t mind if we crawl over the finish line, as long as we get over but everybody’s got to take stock and enjoy it. They should be enjoying the challenge, we’re in a fantastic position and as a player it’s what you crave. But we won’t look beyond the next game, we’ll focus everything on Saturday and trying to get all three points.”
Rovers will not be lulled into a false sense of security. Until the game at the Mem Rovers had failed to beat the Maxonians in 8 previous meetings at the Mem. Until that 4-0 best of season result, games between the teams were inevitably tight. In none of the previous 16 games had there been more than 1 goal difference. The last season the teams met was in 2001/12 and both games finished scoreless.
The 18th December 1998 saw the Silkmen travel to The Mem for their first game against Rovers, it ended in a 0-0 draw in which the Cheshire side gave a battling performance.
The return leg at the Moss Rose, on 8th May the last day of the season, provided one last kick in the teeth for the Silkmen in a relegation season. After going 2-0 up after 20 minutes and still leading 3-1 just after half time, two goals in two minutes and an 87th minute strike gave Rovers a 4-3 win.
For Rovers, Jamie Cureton scored a memorable hat trick and Frankie Bennett notched a rare goal. For Macclesfield, Efe Sodje’s season finished early after he was sent off.
The Silkmen have the upper hand in the records having beaten Rovers seven times with seven draws and just three Rovers victories.
In mid-week Town took a day off their normal routine and captain Paul Turnbull thinks that a squad day out was needed. The Macclesfield squad put aside their muddied boots and swapped them for race helmets as they took each other on at go-karting in a team bonding exercise.
“The results coming in at the moment aren’t the best results ever but we needed a day out because we haven’t had one this year yet and it’s a great experience for us.”
“John Askey’s told us just to relax and that’s how things were at the start of the season. Obviously winning games is very important for us and coming here today just takes your mind off it for a little bit and we will back to training on Thursday.”
Turnbull also thinks that the promotion battle could open up once more if his side manages to grab a win over the Gas, “I think the Bristol game is the biggest game of the season. If we win on Saturday then it opens up again and we will go very close. I just hope results go our way,” he said.
On the injury front Scott Barrow is likely to remain sidelined, “Scott’s still really struggling, we can’t get to the bottom of his problem, he’s desperate to get back playing again – and we’d love to have him back again, but then Alex Grant has been great there.”